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"City of the Living God" 

The Urban Roots of the Spiritual Exercises 

Richard A. Blake, SJ. 

ONL PER BX3701 .S88x 

Studies in the spirituality of Jesuits.. [St. Loui 

Issue: v.34:no.1(2002:Jan.) 

Arrival Date: 04/04/2002 

Boston College Libraries 

34/1 • JANUARY 2002 


The Seminar is composed of a number of Jesuits appointed from their provinces in 
the United States. 

It concerns itself with topics pertaining to the spiritual doctrine and prac- 
tice of Jesuits, especially United States Jesuits, and communicates the results to the 
members of the provinces through its publication, STUDIES IN THE SPIRITUALITY OF 
JESUITS. This is done in the spirit of Vatican IPs recommendation that religious 
institutes recapture the original inspiration of their founders and adapt it to the 
circumstances of modern times. The Seminar welcomes reactions or comments in 
regard to the material that it publishes. 

The Seminar focuses its direct attention on the life and work of the Jesuits 
of the United States. The issues treated may be common also to Jesuits of other 
regions, to other priests, religious, and laity, to both men and women. Hence, the 
journal, while meant especially for American Jesuits, is not exclusively for them. 
Others who may find it helpful are cordially welcome to make use of it. 


William A. Barry, S.J., directs the tertianship program and is a writer at Cam- 
pion Renewal Center, Weston, MA (1999). 

Robert L. Bireley, S.J., teaches history at Loyola University, Chicago, IL (2001) 

James F. Keenan, S.J., teaches moral theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theol- 
ogy, Cambridge, MA (2000). 

Lawrence J. Madden, S.J., directs the Georgetown Center for Liturgy, Washing- 
ton, DC (2001) 

Douglas W. Marcouiller, S.J., teaches economics at Boston College, Chestnut 
Hill, MA (2000). 

G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., teaches German language and literature at Georgetown 
University, Washington, DC (2001) 

Thomas P. O'Malley, S.J., is associate dean of arts and sciences and teaches in 
the honors program at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA (2000). 

John W Padberg, S.J., is chairman of the Seminar, editor of STUDIES, and direc- 
tor and editor at the Institute of Jesuit Sources (1986). 

William R. Rehg, S.J., teaches philosophy at St. Louis University, St. Louis, 
MO (2000). 

The opinions expressed in STUDIES are those of the individual authors thereof. 
Parentheses designate year of entry as a Seminar member. 

Copyright © 2002 and published by the Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality 
3601 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 
(Tel. 314-977-7257; Fax 314-977-7263) 

"City of the Living God 

The Urban Roots of the 
Spiritual Exercises 


Richard A. Blake , S.J. 


34/1 • JANUARY 2002 

Of all things . . . 

Novitiates have a long history in the Church and in religious life. Anthony 
of the Desert could accept Paul the Simple as a new disciple by saying the few 
words, "In the name of Christ, behold you are now made a monk"; but it was St. 
Benedict and his Rule that fixed the terms "novice" and "novitiate" to designate a 
candidate for religious life and his period of probation. Most such periods were of 
one-year duration; the great innovation of the Jesuits was to add a second year to the 
novitiate. And then one might have gotten the impression, certainly until Vatican II, 
that the life of the novitiate just went on its way from then on, perhaps growing 
ever more complex and rigid. 

A history of the Jesuit novitiate is yet to be written, if it ever can be; but 
there are cases showing that its life was not always as rigidly set as we might have 
imagined. To cite but a few examples: first, up to Vatican II, for the United States at 
least, it was effectively unheard of for a novitiate to be anywhere other than in the 
countryside, to preserve the novices from the world so recently abandoned. Yet for 
almost two centuries the most famous Jesuit novitiate in France, the home of a great 
number of Jesuit saints who were later canonized, was in the middle of Paris, less 
than two city blocks from one of the largest, most rowdy, raucous, enticing, 
disreputable amusements in the city, the St. Germain Fair. Yet another example: the 
novitiate prepares one for his future life as a Jesuit. That is true, unless you are Jan 
Casimir, brother of Wladislaus IV, king of Poland. Jan joined the Society in 1643, 
was made a cardinal three years later, and after two more years became king of 
Poland. He served in that capacity until 1668 through a series of disastrous wars that 
almost destroyed the country. It was in his reign that the monastery of Cz^stochowa 
was successfully defended and became a symbol of Polish nationhood. Another 
example: presumably only some years after the novitiate would a novice pronounce 
final vows. But then, matters were otherwise when that novice was a former bishop 
and former senator of Poland. In 1678 Thomas Ujeyski finished the novitiate and 
was immediately professed of the four vows. 

And we all know how experienced in the life of the Society a novice 
director is meant to be. But the ten young men in the first novitiate in the United 
States, that of the Maryland mission, began their long retreat on October 10, 1806. 
Their director, Fr. Francis Neale, was himself a novice who had entered the Society 
on that very day. The reader of these four novitiate stories may draw any moral he 

Jeronimo Nadal must have taken to heart the advice that Ignatius of Loyola 
gave in the Spiritual Exercises: "[S]ee in imagination the physical place where that 
which I want to contemplate is taking place. . . . for instance, a temple or a moun- 
tain where Jesus Christ or our Lady happens to be, in accordance with the topic I 
desire to contemplate" (47:3-4). In his latter years, while in retirement in Hall, near 
Innsbruck, Nadal was the author of an extraordinary book of engravings of scenes 
from the life of Christ. Not published until some thirteen years after Nadal's death 
in 1580, it was one of the last gifts to his Jesuit brethren and to the Church from .i 
man to whom the Society owed so much. 


The book originally appeared at Antwerp in 1593 from one of the greatest 
publishers of Europe, the Plantin Press. It is sometimes referred to today, and aptly 
so, as The Illustrated Spiritual Exercises. Its original long Latin title in English transla- 
tion can be put as Images from the Gospels Used in the Sacrifice of the Mass during the 
Year, Arranged according to the Chronology of Events in the Life of Christ. From the 
birth of Jesus to the assumption of Mary, every event in Christ's life is pictured, 
those taken from the Gospels and even from legends, and even accretions to the 
Gospels. Details in each of the one hundred and fifty-three engravings are lettered 
and described in a text below the illustration, and the specific Gospel references are 
given above each illustration. Those texts are in Latin and would unfortunately be all 
too unknown to many people today, but not to those who used the book at the 
time it was published. The pictures not only then served as a stimulus to imaginative 
contemplation, as they could serve now, but even now they are a treasure-trove for 
historians of sixteenth-century Catholic spirituality, and for the influence of that 
spirituality through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They are equally a rich 
mine for art and architecture historians, because the buildings, the decorations, the 
furniture, and even the clothes of most of the participants in the stories are those of 
sixteenth-century Europe. 

The original 1593 edition is, of course, a rare book today. But fortunately 
contemporary technology has made possible excellent reproductions of the illustra- 
tions. Fr. Richard Rousseau, S.J., at the University of Scranton Press, has provided 
them in a paperback edition of Nadal's original work. He merits our thanks for 
making available to us again one of the Society's treasures, and thus for making us 
once again aware of Nadal's gifts to the Society. 

And finally, an interesting observation, not apropos of any of my previous 
comments, but intriguing in itself and, I hope, capable of stimulating thought and 
maybe even a letter or two in agreement or disagreement with it. In my experience, 
what is said below is certainly not true of life in the Society of Jesus. Is it true of fife 
in the Church? The comment is by Clifford Longley, writing in Priests and People,, 
an English Catholic Journal. 

Catholic Infantilism: As citizens we are required to be critical of authority 
where necessary, to have regard to our rights and to stand up for them. A 
healthy scepticism is required of us. How come in our lives as Catholics— 
surely the most important part of what we are— we somehow have to 
contrive to become completely different people: docile, passive, uncritical, 
with no power or influence, no right to information, no right to be con- 
sulted? Is it even possible to switch over like that, from active citizen to 
passive church-goer; or do we just pretend we have done so, hiding what 
we really feel? Does this not lead to a kind of Catholic infantilism, where 
we have to cease to be adults because the only room for us in the Church is 
as children? 

John W. Padberg, SJ. 



The Question 

Historical Contexts 3 

The Place of Composition 3 

The Pilgrim's Progress 5 

Alone in a Crowd 6 

A Very, Very Quiet Place 9 

Jesuits Making the Exercises 11 

Housing for Laymen 12 

Summing Up 13 

In Search of Integration 15 

Some Key Questions 15 

Analogy to the Examen 15 

An Argument from Congruence 16 

In Search of Continuity 18 

An American Perspective 23 

American Ruralism 23 

The Frontier Reborn 27 

Meanwhile, Back in the East ... 29 

The Middle Ground 30 

SOURCES: V. Rev. Gabriel Gruber, general of the Society of Jesus, 

to Most Rev. John Carroll, bishop of Baltimore 32 

"City of the Living God" 

The Urban Roots of the 
Spiritual Exercises 

Bernardus valles, montes Benedictus amabat; 
oppida Franciscus, sed magnas Ignatius urbes. 
(Bernard loved the valleys, Benedict the mountains, 
Francis the towns, but Ignatius the great cities.) 

The Question 

Overworked and overwhelmed by the demands of noisy, city-cen- 
tered ministries, Jesuits, like many other priests and religious, 
cherish their annual retreat in the country. They delight in the 
greenery and savor those hours of productive, refreshing quiet away from 
the exhausting pace of their "real" world. For many, returning to that messy 
workaday world can involve at times a bit of a letdown, a sense of departure 
from a world of "spirituality," as though the two spheres existed indepen- 
dently at opposite poles in a Jesuit's life. Some may even harbor an unspo- 
ken assumption that associates holiness with the tranquility of the country 
and worldliness with the babel of the city. 

The title of this essay is quoted from Heb. 12:22. Regarding the epigram, see 
Thomas M. Lucas, S.J., Saint, Site and Sacred Strategy: Ignatius, Rome and Jesuit Urbanism 
(Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1990), 16. In a note Lucas refers to the 
various forms this oft used traditional proverb took in its many incarnations in Jesuit 
literature (ibid., 44). 

Richard A. Blake, S.J., is professor of Fine Arts and codirector of the Film 
Studies Program at Boston College. Formerly he was executive editor of America, where 
he has also been doing film reviews since 1975. His recent books include Woody Allen: 
Profane and Sacred, and Afterimage: The Indelible Catholic Imagination in Six 
American Film Makers, awaiting publication. 

Richard A. Blake, S J. 

The rural setting has become an ordinary part of the retreat experi- 
ence for contemporary American Jesuits, and most of us most of the time, 
no doubt, find that in many ways it enriches the atmosphere for prayer. But 
do we lose something by making our annual retreat in the country when 
our apostolic work is rooted in the city? It is an intriguing question. Put 
another way, I wonder if geography adds to a sense of spiritual schizophre- 
nia, as though we may be trying to lead two Jesuit lives at once: the life of 
prayer and the life of action, each pursued in a radically different environ- 
ment. Teasing out the implications of this question may not lead me to 
surrender my annual week in the country, but it has led me to rethink my 
sense of Ignatian spirituality. 

What follows should not be construed as a plea to shut down 
Gloucester, Wernersville, Sedalia, or Los Gatos. I would, however, like to 
examine the thesis that the Spiritual Exercises in both composition and early 
practice grew from urban roots. Yet for many of us, making a retreat means 

moving to the country. This change of 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ venue may lead us to miss some of the 

implications of individual exercises, and 
One soon realizes that the may even compromise that unity between 

process of Ignatian con- action and contemplation that lies at the 

version and spiritual de- core of Ignatian spirituality. 

velopment took place to This thesis, intended here to be 

an extraordinary degree exploratory rather than argumentative, 

in busy, highly social, may have implications that can enrich our 

even urban situations understanding of how we make the Spiri- 

rather than in places of tual Exercises today. First, going back to 

quiet and solitude. earl 7 historical records provides a context 

for this kind of reflection. What was the 

setting in which St. Ignatius composed the 
.^ ^^__^^^^^^^^_ Exercises, and how did he and the early 

Jesuits begin leading others through their 
retreats? Second, could the normal urban setting in which the Exercises were 
given in their early days have influenced the composition, understanding, 
and focus of the key meditations for Ignatius and the First Companions? 
Third, as a personal quirk, I'd like to explore some cultural factors that 
might explain why we American Jesuits as a group generally prefer to live in 
the city but pray in the country. 

"City of the Living God" •!• 3 

Historical Contexts 

The Place of Composition 

Location is everything. At least today's entrepreneurs seem to think 
it is. It seems fair to ask the question: Where, geographically and socially, 
were the Spiritual Exercises originally composed and given? Recognizing the 
importance of its original setting, especially if it is different from what most 
of us are used to today, holds some serious implications not only for the 
Exercises but for Ignatian spirituality as it is lived by Jesuits in their daily 

Ignatius himself does little to assist us in this investigation. The 
meager descriptive information found in primary documents regarding the 
various locations in which the Exercises were composed, made, and given 
strikes me as ironic, penned as they were by someone who gave such 
detailed descriptions of how he returned to Mt. Olivet, surrendered his 
penknife as a bribe to a guard, and asked to be allowed to revisit a holy site 
outside Jerusalem, just so that he could check the exact position of our 
Lord's feet at the moment of his Ascension (47). l Even though Ignatius 
appreciated the importance of location, either by oversight or design, he left 
his own biographers stranded in a strange land without a penknife. 

All Jesuits have composed their own mental biography of Ignatius. 
Most of us have long ago concluded that the Spiritual Exercises are the 
product of a newly converted hermit living in a cave at Manresa. The text of 
Ignatius's "autobiography" furnishes some refinement of this conception. 
Keeping in mind this question of locale while skimming through its pages, 
one soon realizes that the process of conversion and spiritual development 
took place to an extraordinary degree in busy, highly social, even urban 
situations rather than in places of quiet and solitude. 

The first stirrings of the saint lurking under the skin of a wounded 
soldier began at his ancestral castle, where, surrounded by physicians and 
attendants, he even had access to a library containing, if not the "worldly 
books of fiction" he requested, at least a life of Christ and a book of lives of 
saints (PilgTest 5). During this period of confinement, he also flirted with the 
idea of becoming a Carthusian in Seville; but even in the midst of his "first 
fervor," he decided that holiness for him would be found, not in a monas- 

1 A Pilgrim's Testament: The Memoirs of St. Ignatius of Loyola As Transcribed by 
Luis Goncalvez da Camara, trans. Parmananda R. Divarkar, S.J. (St. Louis: Institute of 
Jesuit Sources, 1995). Hereafter this source will be abbreviated to PilgTest. Here and later, 
numbers enclosed in parentheses following references to texts written by Ignatius indicate 
the paragraph numbers of the document cited. 

4 * Richard A. Blake, SJ. 

tery, but on the pilgrim's road to the city of Jerusalem (12). Nor did the 
Benedictine foundation at Monserrat hold much appeal for him. After his 
general confession and his all-night vigil, he took to the road again and 
stopped at the small city of Manresa, where, he notes, the townspeople 
regarded him as something of a celebrity for his "renunciation" at Monserrat 
(18). Much to his embarrassment and apparent annoyance, giving his cloak 
to a beggar during his pilgrimage there gave rise to a rumor that he had 
given away a vast fortune. 

The perception that Ignatius lived the life of a hermit in a cave at 
Manresa while he composed the Spiritual Exercises calls for some refinement 
as well. According to his own recollections, his days included more social 
contact than one might expect of a "hermit." Every day he went out into 
the town to beg (19) and attended Mass, vespers, and compline in the 
cathedral (20). Eventually he moved from his hospice to a "small room" in a 
Dominican monastery, where he prayed seven hours a day (23). Even while 
keeping this extraordinary regimen of prayer, he still had time to offer 
spiritual direction to those who came to visit him (26). He notes that during 
these days he even began to change his personal hygiene in order to be 
better able to help souls (29). During his several bouts of illness, he was 
taken into a private home and cared for by "many prominent ladies" (34). 

The famous revelation on the banks of the Cardoner occurred while 
he was on his way to attend Mass at a public church "situated little more 
than an mile from Manresa" (30). Significantly, his Cardoner experience of 
1521 heightened his awareness of the Trinity and, as Father General Arrupe 
has perceptively observed, set the foundation for the outward-looking, 
apostolic mission of his life and of the Society that he would one day 
found. 2 

By the time he left Manresa in 1523, he had both "made" the 
Exercises himself under the direction of the Holy Spirit and had begun to 
assemble the notes that would enable him to lead others through the experi- 
ence. 3 During this period of extraordinary spiritual activity, both contempla- 

*" Pedro Arrupe, S.J. "The Trinitarian Inspiration of the Ignatian Charism," 

Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 33, no. 3 (May 2001): 22. 

77;e Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, ed. and trans. George E. Ganss, S.J. (St. 
Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1992), 3. Citations from any edition of the Spiritual 
Exercises will hereafter be indicated by SpEx. The Spiritual Exercises, as we know them 
today, were composed over a period of time. The oldest complete form, the Versio Prima, 
sections of which were written in the hand of Ignatius, is thought to date from 1541. Pope 
Paul III approved the Vulgata versio on July 31, 1548; this was the "classical" Latin version 
done for Ignatius by Andre de Freux (Joseph de Guibert, S.J., The Jesuits: Their Spiritual 
Doctrine and Practice, ed. George E. Ganss, S.J., trans. William J. Young, S.J. [St. Louis: 

"City of the Living God" -fr 5 

tive and pastoral, he remained in some way in contact with a wide circle of 
people in the town. One might say that his spirituality took shape in the 
social environment of village life as much as in a solitary cave or monastic cell. 

The Pilgrim's Progress 

After Manresa, the autobiography of Ignatius reads like a travelog, 
an odyssey of the interior life marked by a series of journeys to major cities: 
Barcelona, Rome, Padua, Venice, and finally Jerusalem. There, despite his 
initial desire to stay in the Holy Land and grow close to Jesus through his 
devotion to the sacred shrines, he also formulated a desire to "help souls," 
which he chose not to reveal to the Franciscan superiors during his unsuc- 
cessful negotiations to stay with them (45). At the end of his return journey 
to Barcelona, through Venice and Genoa, he took the next step in his 
development by resolving to return to school (54). 

After preliminary studies at Barcelona, Ignatius attended the univer- 
sity at Alcala. Here he lived in a hospice in town and, despite his dedication 
to his studies, he "was engaged in giving the spiritual exercises and teaching 
catechism" (57). It is noteworthy that the director and his retreatants con- 
ducted their business in town rather than in a monastery. All the while, 
Ignatius remained involved with his own studies and catechizing. At Alcala, 
Ignatius also did time in jail for his allegedly questionable doctrine and for 
his suspected role in encouraging two noblewomen to undertake a pilgrim- 
age unescorted(l), an accusation he vigorously denied (61). 

History repeats itself: The next university town, Salamanca, brought 
him another stay in prison for talking of God without suitable academic 
credentials (65). Realizing that his brush with the law would limit his ability 
to "help souls" in Salamanca, he resolved to continue his studies at Paris, La 
Grande Pomme of sixteenth-century Europe. While living in this metropolis, 
he resolved to gather additional companions to help him in his great, but as 
yet unspecified, work (71). In the rough-and-tumble of city life, he gained 
greater appreciation of the role of others in his vocation, not only as "souls" 
to help but as companions in the enterprise. 

At Alcala and again at Paris, Ignatius led his companions through 
the Exercises but, sadly, he left us few details about the physical circum- 
stances of their "retreat." While in Paris he set his spiritual sights initially on 
two roommates, Francis Xavier and Pierre Favre, who he thought would 
make excellent companions for the long haul (81). Under his direction, they 
made the Spiritual Exercises there in the city. By the time Ignatius had 

The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1972], 113). 

6 •!• Richard A. Blake, SJ. 

established himself in Venice in 1537, the number of companions had 
reached nine (not including Ignatius himself); but again he says little about 
the circumstances of their "formation" (93). As for himself, Ignatius notes, 
"In all that traveling he had great supernatural experiences like those he had 
at Manresa" (95). He did not have to withdraw to a mountaintop to find 
God; God found him wherever he happened to be. 

While the evidence is meager, several conclusions seem plausible, at 
least as a starting point for further reflection. During these days Ignatius and 
his companions had ongoing commitments to study, to preaching, to 
spiritual conversations, and to works of charity. Despite his busyness, 
Ignatius himself continued to experience privileged moments of contact with 
God in the midst of his studies, travels, imprisonment, and ministry. So it 
would seem likely that, based on his own experience, when he led others 
through the Exercises, he saw little need for his exercitants to seek the kind 
of solitude and withdrawal from the affairs of life that one usually associates 
with gifted prayer. Ignatius would probably smile approvingly at the line of 
Charlie (Harvey Keitel) in Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973): "You don't 
make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets." His smile might 
fade as Charlie concludes his speech: "The rest is bullshit and you know it." 

Alone in a Crowd 

Ignatius's brand of street-bred spirituality raises some questions. 
How did the early Jesuits find the privacy needed for prayer in the midst of 
city life? Ignatius clearly intended his retreatants to depart from the normal 
routine of their daily lives and seek some form of solitude. He makes this 
absolutely clear in the twentieth and last of his Introductory Explanations or 
Annotations, when he states confidently that the exercitant "will achieve 
more progress the more he or she withdraws from all friends and acquain- 
tances and from all earthly concerns; for example, by moving out of one's 
place of residence and taking a different house or room where one can live 
in the greatest possible solitude" (SpEx 20). 4 

Two observations follow immediately. First, as the enumeration 
indicates, this directive follows immediately after the nineteenth introduc- 

The Spanish autograph of Ignatius, the two Latin versions (Versio Prima and 
Vulgata Versio), along with the version of Fr. Roothan of the twentieth annotation, are 
printed side by side in Exercitia Spirituals Sancti Ignatii de Loyola et eorum directoria, 
from the Monumenta Ignatiana, ser. 2, vol. 52 of the series Monumenta historica Societatis 
Iesu (Madrid, 1919), 246-49. The Ganss translation follows the autograph, and may be 
presumed closest to the original intent of Ignatius. All four versions stress the importance 
of privacy, but none specifies where the private rooms are to be located. 

"City of the Living God 

tory explanation, which provides a blueprint for directing the Exercises for 
"a person who is involved in public affairs and pressing occupations" (19), 
one who presumably cannot interrupt the daily routine by withdrawing any 
great distance from ongoing responsibilities. In this note Ignatius spells out a 
regimen of prayer, but says nothing about the place. Such persons merely 
make a meditation for an hour each morning and then go about their daily 
routine. Second, although the twentieth annotation suggests a different room 
or house, where the familiar patterns can be displaced by full attention to 
prayer, it does not explicitly encourage the retreatant to move away from his 
or her neighborhood or city, nor does it prescribe a preference for a rural 
setting. The nineteenth annotation presumes that one will remain in one's 
usual environment, and the twentieth leaves the matter open to the discre- 
tion of the director and the retreatant. 

Although moving to a somewhat remote ambience has become 
standard retreat practice, at least in the United States, for many practical 
reasons Ignatius does not insist on it. In fact, even as superior general of the 
Society, he conducted the Exercises in Rome himself, and the earliest novices 
made their long retreat at the novitiate, which was also located in Rome 
according to Ignatius's own preference. 

Despite Ignatius's apparent neutrality on the issue, the impulse 
toward the monastery and the country would seem to have asserted itself 
rather shortly after his death. But even the appearances can be a bit decep- 
tive in this case. At least the evidence that remains in the documents holds 
enough ambiguity to call for a closer examination of the text. 

By the time the official Directory to the Spiritual Exercises appeared 
in Latin in 1599, the early Jesuits seem to have moved substantially beyond 
Ignatius by declaring, "It is certain that the place chosen for performing the 
Exercises ought to be at a distance from the haunts of men and out of sight 
of friends, even the most intimate."" 1 The phrase "at a distance from the 
haunts of men" would seem to offer a clear indication of preference for 
moving out of the city. This anonymous British translation of 1925 reflects 
and affirms what was then the current practice of Jesuits' making the annual 
retreat in the country. The 1996 American translation of the Latin text 
("remotus ab hominum concursu"), however, provides more leeway in the 
matter. In this version the directive reads: "There is no doubt that the place 
where the Exercises are made ought to be secluded from all social contact 

Directory to the Spiritual Exercises of Our Holy Father Ignatius, trans, anon. 
(London: Manresa, 1925), 1, p. 17. 

8 * Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

and even the sight of others, especially family and friends." 6 Seclusion 
(perhaps "privacy" might have a more contemporary sound to it) need not 
imply physical distance from "the haunts of men." This version, with its 
ambiguity about setting, echoes the sentiment of Ignatius himself in his own 
autograph directory: "The place where he makes the Exercises should be 
where he will be least able to be seen or talk with anyone, if the Exercises 
are being given in full." 7 

Many of the earlier documents from a variety of private directories 

that were collated under the direction of Father General Claudio Aquaviva 

and became the Official Directory of 1599, echo this call for privacy, without 

the sense of remoteness from populated 

^^^^^^~^^^^™^~~^^~ areas that the 1925 British translation im- 

. plies. For example, Father Diego Miro, in 

Did the location actually a directory written before 1582> wanted to 

color the experience of the correct some of the excessive "flexibility" 

Lxercises for the early fol- tnat ne perceived in contemporary practice 

lowers of Ignatius? by returning to the spirit of St. Ignatius. 

He writes: "As for the place, unless the 
^^^^^^^^^~^^~^^^"™^ person who is going to make the Exercises 

is a member of the Society or has decided 
to enter the Society, he can be given the Exercises in some house or dwell- 
ing outside our own, where he can be away from every kind of occupation, 
as is indicated in Annotation 20. " 8 Even for one inclined toward strict 
observance, the issue is privacy, not notification. 

Similarly, Fr. Girolamo Benci compiled notes for a directory during 
the retreat he made sometime between 1580 and 1590. He echoes the 
sentiment of Miro: "Unless the exercitant belongs to our Society, the place 
for him to stay could be a secluded room in a separate house; this would be 
more suitable than in our college." 9 One final example: Fr. Antonio Corde- 
ses notes in his undated directory, "Once a person had decided to make the 
Exercises, provision should be made for him to withdraw to a secluded cell, 

Exercitia Spiritual ia, 1125, no. 1; On Giving the Spiritual Exercises: The Early 
Jesuit Manuscript Directories of 1599, ed. and trans. Martin E. Palmer, S.J. (St. Louis: The 
Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), chap 4, no. 36 (p. 298). 

Palmer, On Giving the Spiritual Exercises, p. 7, no. 2. 

"Second Directory of Father Diego Miro," no. 9 (ibid., 164). 

"How to Give the Exercises, by Fabio de Fabi," no. 21 (ibid., 201). Fr. Benci 
was careful to credit these observations to his director, Fr. de Fabi. 

"City of the Living God" 

remaining secluded throughout the Exercises from any conversation or 
dealing with others that might distract him from them." 10 

Silence and privacy are not in question for one making the Exercises 
in full. The early directories leave no doubt about the need for some form of 
seclusion where one can be spared the distractions of the workaday world. 
In the available literature, however, it is the nature of the seclusion that 
remains in doubt. 

Let's stop at this point in our survey of texts to address the obvious 
question: Who cares? What difference does it make whether one creates a 
world of silence in a private room in a house in the city or whether one 
retreats from the city altogether and tries to listen to God's voice in the 
natural silence of a pastoral setting? Did the location actually color the 
experience of the Exercises for the early followers of Ignatius? Whether or 
not one chooses to replicate that urban experience today, does this historical 
background hold implications for one's apostolic spirituality today? It might, 
as I hope to suggest once the rest of this historical groundwork has been set 
in place. 

A Very, Very Quiet Place 

If the early documents leave the nature of seclusion unsettled, the 
practice of the time yields some sense of the settings for the Exercises among 
the early Jesuits. Being directors ever ready to adapt to the needs of the 
retreatants, Ignatius and his companions allowed those making the Exercises 
to choose from a great variety of accommodations. What is known today as 
the Nineteenth Annotation Retreat, an ordinary practice rather than an 
innovation in the early days, proved no problem. 11 Persons making the 
Exercises in this manner merely lived at home and periodically consulted the 
director at the Jesuit rectory. Women, if they were members of a religious 
community, simply remained in their convent. Laywomen might find 
temporary lodging in the guest quarters of a convent; or, more commonly, 
they simply stayed at home and met with the director in a church, fre- 
quently in the place where confessions were normally heard. 

Some men, however, posed housing problems. These included men 
discerning a vocation to the priesthood, the Society of Jesus, or some other 

"Directory of Father Antonio Cordeses," no. 13 (ibid., 267). 

John W. O'Malley describes the evolution from individual direction to 
"group" retreats, which required space, which in turn took on the form of reserved rooms 
and eventually entire buildings set aside for those making the Exercises (The First Jesuits 
[Cambridge: Harvard, 1993], 129. 

10 ^ Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

religious institute, as well as other laymen who for a variety of reasons were 
ready to commit an extended period of time to making the Exercises beyond 
the First Week. For these the Jesuits wanted to provide some special accom- 
modations. Routinely they took up residence in an isolated section of the 
Jesuit community; or if a place could be found for them, they could stay in 
a private house or monastery, where they could attend Mass and vespers and 
meet with the director from a nearby Jesuit residence. 

It became common practice to reserve a few guest rooms in the 
residence for this purpose. If an exercitant was to stay with the Jesuit 
community, the superior of the house, rather than the director, was in- 
structed to discuss financial arrangements with the guest and provide "some- 
one to wait on him and bring him his meals." 12 Once the Exercises began, 
this "manservant" — as much as the term rubs us wrong today, no more 
appropriate word can be used — handled practical details only, and spoke with 
the retreatant only on these matters "in the fewest possible words." No one 
else in the house had any dealings with him whatever. Meals were taken 
alone in the private room, not in the community refectory. 

This extreme form of "solitude" within a single room in the com- 
munity residence might strike us today as bordering on solitary confinement, 
but this initial impression may be misleading. The isolation was eased to 
some extent by daily trips to the neighborhood church and by scheduled 
visits from the "servant" and the director. If the house was large enough, the 
retreatant might spend some time in the garden, but during the First Week, 
the Additional Directions reinforce an extraordinary' degree of isolation: "I 
will deprive myself of all light, by closing the shutters and doors while I am 
in my room, except for times when I want to read the office or other 
matters, or eat" (SpEx 79). Long walks in the woods were not factored into 
the routine, but trips through the streets to a public church for Mass and 
vespers were. 

When matched against today's experience of making the Exercises, 
where the solitude derives from a more or less spacious rural setting pro- 
vided by many retreat houses, the early practice bristles with paradox. 
Today the houses themselves are "isolated," while the retreatants enjoy 
lounges, music, a library, a house chapel, a pleasant dining room, and at least 
the moral support of seeing other people as they go through a similar 
routine. In the early days, however, the houses were located in the towns, 
within which the individual retreatants followed their own individual 
regimen of solitude, which included walks back and forth to church. These 

1_ "The Official Directory of 1599," chap. 4, no. 38, in Palmer, On Giving the 
Exercises, 298. 

"City of the Living God" •!• 11 

lodgings for exercitants, within ready walking distance of a church, or of the 
director's residence in the case of those who had quarters outside the Jesuit 
house, would have been located primarily in populated areas, where the 
Jesuits of the community, including the director, would be working at their 
various ministries. 13 

Jesuits Making the Exercises 

What about lodgings for Jesuits making retreats during the lifetime 
of Ignatius and shortly after his death? In the earliest days, they had no 
problem about finding a time and place for their annual retreat, simply 
because the obligation did not exist until 1608 (fifty-two years after the death 
of Ignatius), when General Congregation 6 decreed that every Jesuit should 
devote eight to ten days each year to making the Spiritual Exercises. 14 De 
Guibert underlines the dramatic shift from ordinary practice that Father 
General Aquaviva and this congregation initiated in their efforts to foster 
continuing spiritual development among Jesuits who had already completed 
their formation: "Hitherto, the practice had been to make the Exercises only 
on extraordinary and rare occasions." 15 

Before they became pan of the annual routine, these "extraordinary 
and rare" occasions might well lead a Jesuit to adopt the same form of total 
isolation as a layman trying to decide on a new direction in his life or as a 
novice or tertian searching for confirmation in his vocation. Once the Jesuits 
were required by law to make a retreat every year, the problem of lodging 
took care of itself. They were able simply to stay at home and the whole 
community together made the "house retreat." If the community was located 

Thomas M. Lucas, S.J., points out the apostolic need that prompted the early 
Jesuits to deliberately select a location at the center of the city of Rome. Throughout this 
study, he demonstrates how this "urban strategy" developed in other cities as well 
(Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy [Chicago: Loyola, 1997], 87). 

De Guibert, 237. Clearly a man of his own perspectives and preferences, de 
Guibert notes with apparent approval that the insistence on an annual retreat was part of 
a movement toward greater regimentation imposed by General Congregation 6 and 
Aquaviva. The spirit of this period of renewal also included enshrining into law the 
practice of the full hour of mental prayer that had been the recommended custom since 
Borgia and GC 2 in 1565. This decree was a clear and deliberate revision of the 
Constitutions of Ignatius. See The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their 
Complementary Norms: A Complete English Translation of the Ojficlil Latin Texts, ed. John 
W. Padberg, S.J., et al (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), Cons., Part IV, no. 
342 (p. 142). 

De Guibert, Jesuits, 237. 

12 * Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

in the cities, as most active communities were, then the retreat became an 
"urban" experience. 

Housing for Laymen 

While the Jesuits could stay at home for their annual retreat, lay 
retreatants desiring some temporary separation from business and family 
needed some special accommodation. This proved a problem. Initially, the 
ministry was limited by the lack of available space, and the enthusiasm to 
provide rooms in existing residences became tempered by an internal debate 
about the types of persons and numbers that should be encouraged to make 
the Exercises in this fashion. 16 Some believed that only extraordinary lay- 
people should be allowed to make even a truncated version of the Exercises. 
Others, notably Nadal, felt that all lay students of Jesuit schools should have 
a retreat experience of some kind, but in this instance the residential nature 
of the institution solved the housing problem. They could simply stay at 

Resolving this problem of housing non-student laymen was accom- 
plished indirectly and in stages. As early as 1547 Ignatius wanted to establish 
special houses in which to train Jesuit novices. These would also house 
several formed Jesuits, men carefully chosen for their skill in directing the 
Spiritual Exercises. Precursors to today's novice masters and spiritual direc- 
tors, they would both train novices and conduct the Exercises for laymen 
who requested them. To facilitate this work, additional rooms were to be 
included in the building for the explicit purpose of housing lay retreatants. 17 
Ignatius's revolutionary notion that novices should engage in social work in 
addition to study, prayer, and the full course of the Spiritual Exercises 
during their early training entailed locating the novitiates in the cities. If his 
first companions could make their retreat of election in their own rooms in 
Paris, then Ignatius could see no reason why the next generation of Jesuits 
couldn't do the same in Rome and in other cities. 

In 1553 the Jesuits added an entire building to the college at Alcala 
for laymen making the Exercises, but this generosity in providing housing 
seems to have been the exception to the rule. John O'Malley notes that 
when the Collegio Germanico moved to new quarters in 1563, several rooms 
(not a building) were set aside for lay retreatants; he considered this allot- 
ment of space enough to qualify the college for the honor of being "the first 

16 O'Malley, First Jesuits, 130. 
1 De Guibert, Jesuits, 302. 

"City of the Living God" •$• 13 

'retreat house' in Rome." 18 In 1599 Aquaviva was still urging superiors to be 
generous in setting aside rooms for retreatants. Oddly, even after space 
became available, the numbers of laymen making the retreats in the colleges 
remained disappointingly low, despite the innovative practice of giving the 
Exercises to several exercitants at one time. 19 Naturally, local superiors were 
reluctant to add extra rooms for laymen if there was a possibility that they 
might go unused. It was a proverbial vicious circle: without space, large 
numbers could not be invited to make the Exercises; without exercitants, no 
one would add space in Jesuit residences. 

After some decades this impasse reached a resolution by moving 
retreat facilities away from the Jesuit communities. The concept of what we 
would now call Jesuit retreat houses did not really take shape until 1660, 
when Vincent Huby and Jean Rigoleuc converted a seminary building into a 
center for giving the Exercises. Located in Vannes, in Brittany, the house 
followed the model established by St. Vincent de Paul in Paris in 1628. The 
idea of offering abbreviated retreats in a separate house caught on and spread 
throughout France. Within the next century there were seven such retreat 
houses in France, some serving on occasion a hundred or more men at one 
time. 20 In these large-group retreats, individual direction would be impossi- 
ble. Because of the numbers, the Exercises for laymen, like those for Jesuits, 
fell into the pattern of the preached retreat. 

Summing Up 

At this point it may be helpful to draw these several strands to- 
gether to try to gain some sense of the perceivable shift in the practice and 
experience of the Spiritual Exercises. This historical survey of these early 
developments, we hope, can provide a useful context in which to reflect on 
the Exercises and indeed on Ignatian spirituality itself as they shape Jesuit 
lives to this day. 

For present purposes, six observations can be drawn from all the 
disparate information provided by the early documents and from what is 
known about the practice of the Exercises by Ignatius and the First Com- 

1. During the period of his great illuminations at Loyola and then at 
Manresa, when Ignatius can be said to be making his own version of the 

18 O'Malley, First Jesuits, 130. 

19 De Guibert, Jesuits, 302 f. 


Ibid., 304. 

14 * Richard A. Blake, S J. 

Spiritual Exercises under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he remained in 
contact with the larger ambient society, exercising various ministries and 
accepting spiritual and temporal support from local residents. In the years 
after Manresa, as he continued to record his insights and refine his ideas and 
as he gathered companions, Ignatius remained in populated areas where he 
could engage in other apostolates while directing others in the many forms 
of the Exercises. 

2. Ignatius and his companions adapted the Exercises to the varied 
needs and capabilities of the retreatant, according to introductory explana- 
tion 18, and thus frequently confined themselves to reflections on the First 
Week, which might last from a few days to a week or more (SpEx 18). 
Furthermore, they made frequent use of the nineteenth-annotation approach, 
which permitted both the exercitant and the director to go about their 
normal duties during the retreat (19). Both factors suggest strongly that both 
retreatant and director remained in a city, within easy distance of one 
another and their respective outside obligations. 

3. Those wishing to make the Exercises over a longer period of time — 
what we would call today a "closed" retreat — took up residence in a private 
house, monastery, or Jesuit community close enough to the director's regular 
round of activity to allow them to meet on a daily basis. Again, since Jesuits 
carried on their ministries in or around cities and colleges, this was where 
the retreat was conducted. Even within this urban or suburban setting, 
arrangements could be made to ensure an extraordinary degree of solitude 
within the house. 

4. When novitiates once separated from the houses of more-advanced 
study, they became the preferred location for laymen making the Exercises. 

These were initially located in the cities, 
— ^ mm ^^^^^ mmm .^^^.^^^^^ where novices could have access to the 

ministries of their ongoing experiments. 
Does a week or month of Certain Jesuits were assigned to direct both 

quiet in idyllic surround- the novices and the lay retreatants there in 

ings pose the risk of wid- r ^ e Clt y- 

ening the gap between 5. When the annual retreat became 

prayer and apOStolate in a obligatory for all Jesuits, the ideal of hav- 
JesiliVs life? m g a personal director for each exercitant 

was no longer practical in large communi- 
___________ ties. As a result, the "house retreat" be- 
came the norm, especially for Jesuit stu- 
dents. The one retreat master could travel to a house of studies anywhere. 
While these scholasticates were located in a city, near a university, the 
experience remained somewhat urban in nature. As the scholasticates moved 

"City of the Living God" <h 15 

to the country, as was certainly the case with the acre-a-man policy that 
ruled in the United States for over a century, the house retreat became more 
rural in flavor. 

6. From their inception, retreat "houses" for the laity were free- 
standing ministries. The Jesuits assigned to them led visitors through the 
Exercises in part or in whole and also did spiritual direction; many wrote 
pamphlets and books to supply fellow directors with ideas for this important 
work of the Society. They frequently had no other obligations, like teaching 
or social ministry, that would tie them to an urban center, and as a result 
they and their ministry could be located anywhere, even in the country. 

While a retreat in the country offers much by way of refreshment, 
physical as well as spiritual, the change in ambience that took place after the 
death of Ignatius may have compromised something of the original genius of 
Ignatian spirituality. It certainly has led to an experience that differs a great 
deal from what Ignatius and the First Companions knew, as this historical 
survey has suggested. 

In Search of Integration 

Some Key Questions 

The nub of the argument is simply this: Does a week or month of 
quiet in idyllic surroundings pose the risk of widening the gap between 
prayer and apostolate in a Jesuit's life? Put positively, is the urban setting, 
familiar to the early Jesuits and their lay retreatants, more conducive to the 
objective of finding God in all things? Finally, if the answer to both ques- 
tions is "yes," or even "maybe," then one might ask whether an awareness of 
the urban context in which the Spiritual Exercises were composed and 
originally used might help provide Jesuits today with a richer reading of the 
texts, and help them integrate their prayer and work. The question that will 
not be addressed, at least not directly, is an intensely personal one: Could 
there be some advantage in making a retreat, at least on occasion, on a busy 
campus during the school year or in a school or parish in the middle of a 
city, as in fact many Jesuits do at present? Again, my purpose is exploratory, 
not argumentative. Some may find the notion intriguing; others, ludicrous. 

Analogy to the Examen 

An analogy helps us judge the merits of the suggestion. Thinking of 
the examen, a brief interlude of prayer set in a busy workday, provides a 
useful point of reference for thinking about a retreat set in a busy urban 

16 * Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

environment. The value of both derives precisely from their insertion into 
the real world of a Jesuit's preoccupations, fears, hopes, angers, frustrations, 
and exhaustion. In each case prayer becomes part of that world, not some- 
thing separated from it. 

A few reflections on the examen will help clarify this point. Sub- 
lime realist that he was, Ignatius realized that a spirituality of works rather 
than regular monastic discipline could easily lead his most generous and 
zealous followers into an all-consuming and counterproductive commitment 
to "the work," as though it were a job rather than a ministry. Today we use 
the term "workaholic." Because of this danger, he did not insist on forcing 
long prayers and formal liturgies into an already busy schedule, but relied 
instead on a brief fifteen-minute examination of conscience twice each day. 
No one was to be exempt, not the scholastics (Cons., 342) nor the brothers 

Although De Guibert frequently interprets the examen in the 
traditional sense of a prayer of contrition and reform of life, he does fore- 
shadow later understandings of the practice that involve perceiving God's 
role in the activities of one's day. He writes thus: 

They [examens and meditations] are always seen as a means to dispose the 
soul, to free it from disordered passions, to place it fully under the influ- 
ence of the supernatural light, and by means of this light to make it capable 
of finding, embracing, and carrying out as far as possible God's will con- 
cerning the soul. This too was to become the most important function 
assigned to prayer in the spiritual tradition of the Jesuits." 21 

Of its very nature, the examen, as the centerpiece of Ignatian spirituality, 
according to De Guibert, demands, not a withdrawal from the affairs of the 
day, but an appreciation of the workings of God in the very midst of the 
many exhausting activities undertaken to help souls. The examen ties prayer 
and ministry inextricably together in a Jesuit's life. 

An Argument from Congruence 

The life of Ignatius, the early practice of Jesuits, and written direc- 
tives — all taken together present a united front, or at least a remarkable 
consistency. Initially all forms of Jesuit prayer, from the fifteen-minute 
examen to the thirty-day retreat took place in proximity to the pastoral 
ministries, not apart from them. The director in particular had to remain 
close to his base of operations. There seems something wonderfully Ignatian 
for a Jesuit to interrupt his duties in a local school, hospital, or prison to 

21 De Guibert, 537. 

"City of the Living God" •$• 17 

stop off to discuss the workings of the Spirit in the life of one making the 
Exercises at some house in the neighborhood. Many today continue this 
practice by carrying on fruitful ministries of spiritual direction in the midst 
of their other "primary" ministries. Such an arrangement underlines continu- 
ity, not rupture. 

In contrast, today's experience of the Exercises often stresses discon- 
tinuity. At the risk of generalization and possible exaggeration, let me try to 
describe this separation. Frequently enough, retreatants value a complete 
change of atmosphere, generally at some distance from their normal activi- 
ties. Going to a retreat house means going to the country, and most Jesuits 
welcome this change of scenery. Once surrounded by grass and trees, the 
regimen suggests a temporary vocation to the monastic life. Silence reigns 
throughout the house and grounds; meals and liturgy follow a set schedule. 
This well-ordered routine could not stand in sharper contrast to the chaos of 
the usual apostolic setting. The change is welcome (at least for a short time), 
but alien to Jesuit apostolic life. 

Social patterns change as well. In unaccustomed physical surround- 
ings, the retreatant deals with types of persons somewhat different from his 
usual circle of colleagues, students, patients, or parishioners. Directors 
assume a role of overwhelming importance, but in this setting they are not 
busy ministers who have dropped in for a few minutes between other 
apostolic commitments in the neighborhood. They are the resident experts. 
Even if their regular ministry is something other than retreat work, in this 
particular environment they are the directors. 

This leadership role is inevitable. As a general practice today, full- 
time directors have received some specialized training for this ministry, and 
appropriately so. They have studied the Spiritual Exercises at some depth, 
know at least some rudimentary techniques in psychology and counseling, 
have made workshops and served apprenticeships. They read the books and 
periodicals written by their colleagues. Even part-time directors presumably 
share this background with full-time directors to some extent, or they would 
not be engaged in the work. In short, they have devoted themselves to this 
apostolate as professionals and, much like dedicated professionals in any 
field, they pride themselves on their expertise. For the most part, this 
professionalism has served the Society well. 

But professionalism comes with a cost. As professionals, directors 
can unwittingly form a distinct guild, with its own language, goals, issues, 
literature, folk heroes, and social patterns. During a retreat, the relationship 
between director and retreatant is not such as exists between peers. During 
the week or month away, the exercitant communicates by using their 
specialized vocabulary and adapts to their lifestyle in their setting. 

18 * Richard A. Blake, SJ. 

Entering into a director's physical and social space has some advan- 
tages, of course. It moves the retreatants away from their own small world 
and daily preoccupations, and provides, at least for the time away, a different 
perspective on life. On the other hand, and this is my point, it reinforces the 
sense of "difference," the separation between the spiritual life away in the 
country with spiritual people and the real world at home in the city with 
colleagues. After a good experience with regular order and congenial guides 
in a lovely setting, retreatants going back to the harsh realities of the real 
would have to "shift their gears" violently. Sometimes the gears don't mesh 
all that smoothly. Resolutions to pray more often, made with great ardor 
during the stay in the country, frequently have a relatively short half-life 
back in the brick-and-asphalt bowers of the big cities. Looking back, retreat- 
ants may find their resolutions simply unrealistic; and since they were made 
in an alien environment, perhaps they were. The world of spirituality and 
resolutions was there and then; the world of reality — our world— is here and 

In Search of Continuity 

A reading of several of the key exercises with an awareness of their 
urban roots could provide a starting point as we struggle to maintain contact 
between those privileged moments of quiet prayer that we all cherish and 
the noise of our apostolic works. In a healthy Ignatian spirituality, prayer 
and work exist in a reciprocal relationship. Discovering that continuity, 
fostering it, and living by it provide an ongoing challenge for contemporary 

Even for one making a retreat in the most pastoral of settings, the 
Exercises continually invite one to recall a world of busy human enterprise. 
As we have seen, Ignatius composed the Exercises and continued his spiritual 
growth surrounded by people, and he and other early directors met with 
their retreatants in genuinely urban settings. The Exercises and Directories in 
written form emerge from that background. As a result, many of the 
prescribed meditations bustle with activity. They are crowded and noisy. 
They propose a sweaty spirituality with dirt under its fingernails. These few 
instances illustrate this premise: 

The Principle and Foundation (23) may be the perfect example. With 
very few exceptions (it's hard to imagine any!), everyone making the Exer- 
cises has to grapple with these ideas at some point and in some form in the 
retreat. Normally, it comes up early, often as the first set of recommended 
reflections, while the person is just settling into the retreat. All these individ- 
uals have one of their hands in the retreat and one of their feet out there in 

"City of the Living God" -J* 19 

the world they normally inhabit. Memories, problems, tensions, and the like 
are still vivid and extremely important, and these become the starting place 
for the retreat. In the exercise, one does not suppress awareness of people 
and events, but one makes it the foundation of prayer. 

In this introductory phase, the retreatant is reminded that "other 
things [other than human persons] on the face of the earth are created for 
human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end for which they were 
created" (23:3)." The tempta- 
tion always is to leave "other ^ ^__ 
things" in the abstract. In fact, 

as one concretizes the "things" In the Exercises many of the 

that help and thus are to be prescribed meditations bustle 

embraced with gratitude, one With activity. 

naturally turns to places, ob- 

jects, and events that are vivid 

in the memory. Conversely, one prays to use things that help, and to free 
oneself from those that hinder (23:4). How does one know the difference? 
One begins the Principle and Foundation by examining life in all its messy 
complexity, not by trying to rise above it. 

The Meditations on Sin (45-73) also profit nicely from recalling the 
urban setting of the early Jesuits. After theoretical considerations of the sin 
of the angels (50) and of Adam (51), the text invites the exercitant to con- 
tinue the movement toward the more concrete and experiential. At this 
point, the meditation directs attention to one's personal sins, and the 
retreatant enters this reflection on sin no longer as an observer, but as a 
participant, again in most concrete terms: 

I will call to mind all the sins of my life, looking at them year by year or 
period by period. For this three things will be helpful: first the locality or 
house where I lived; second, the associations which I had with others; third, 
the occupation I was pursuing. (56) 

These directives most explicitly lead one's thoughts and imaginations back 
into the arena of one's normal activities. Praying in a similar environment 
may help jar the memory and make these recollections more powerful; 
physical proximity to the day-to-day world reduces psychological distance. 

But the world of this meditation reveals itself in magnificent ambi- 
guity. It is a world tainted by personal sin, but at the same time brimming 
with opportunities. Ignatius clearly directs these exercises toward a sense of 

"~ Thus are the paragraph and "verse" numbers indicated in recent editions ot the 
Spiritual Exercises, such as the Ganss edition described in n. 3 above. 

20 •*■ Richard A. Blake, SJ. 

gratitude for a second chance to seize the future: "I will conclude with a 
colloquy of mercy— conversing with God our Lord and thanking him for 
granting me life until now, and proposing, with his grace, amendment for 
the future" (61). Implicit in this sequence of meditations lies the resolution 
to return to the site of past failings and missed opportunities, determined to 
seize the day when it next presents itself. The meditation ends with an 
uplifting sense of hope that the arena of human activities will in the future 
be touched by grace that overwhelms sin. 

The Kingdom presents its own particular difficulties for retreatants 
today because of its underlying military metaphor (91-103). Sensitized to 
issues of war and peace, imperialism and colonialism, we might overreact to 
one imaginative framework and miss another. A close reading of the text 
suggests that an urban metaphor stakes an equal claim to our attention, and 
this may be more useful. In the composition of place, Ignatius invites the 
retreatant "to see with the eyes of the imagination, the synagogues, villages, 
and castles through which Christ our Lord passed as he preached" (91:3). 
Only after that imaginative structure is in place does Ignatius shift abruptly 
from the sights and smells of Jerusalem and the villages of Galilee to the 
consideration of "a human king, chosen by God our Lord himself" (92). 

This jarring shift in imagery, from towns and cities to a mythical 
leader, offers a challenge, but it has its own inner logic. The imagination of 
place provides a continuous backdrop against which this leader appears. He 
is a single human person amid hordes of diverse people in a city who yearn 
for someone to provide a direction in their lives. For his part, he tries to 
inspire generous souls to undertake a noble enterprise with him. The 
audience then is as important as the leader, whether the leader is imagined as 
a military figure, as Ignatius suggests, or as Dorothy Day, or as Mother 
Teresa. This charismatic figure reaches out to all sorts of people, the retreat- 
ant among them, inspires generosity, and promises companionship. The 
pattern is thus set for the second part of the meditation, where Christ 
himself stands in the sites familiar from the Gospels and extends his call to a 
diverse, busy population and to this retreatant in particular (95). He looks 
upon them in their need and through his call fulfills all their longings. The 
text itself, and not a fanciful extrapolation, invites us to look with Christ's 
eyes at the world in explicit, concrete terms; and for most of us, that 
involves looking at the city where we exercise our various ministries. 

The Meditation on the Incarnation (101-9), immediately following 
the Kingdom, moves the retreatant even more deeply into a consideration of 
the human environment of ministry. This exercise could have been com- 
posed at a contemporary inner-city parish. If the Kingdom left any doubt 
about the call of Christ as located in a universe of diverse human activ- 

'City of the Living God" •&» 21 

ity — and it doesn't — then the Incarnation seals off any possible escape into 

In the first prelude the retreatant explicitly adopts the point of view 
of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation, and notes "how the three Divine 
Persons gazed on the whole . . . surface of the world, full of people; and 
how, seeing that they were going down into hell, they decide in their 
eternity that the Second Person should become a human being" (102:1-2). 
Again good and evil are mixed, as they are in any human concourse. 

The points of the meditation itself urge ever more concrete explici- 
tation of this busy "world" constantly besieged by sin. The point of view 
switches from the "Three Divine Persons" to "I," but the object of the 
vision is the same. If anything, it is made even more precise because it is 
reconstructed through personal experience, not what one thinks God sees in 
the world, but what the retreatant has actually seen with the eyes of experi- 

In the first point, one sees persons of different races, at war and at 
peace, weeping or laughing, healthy or sick, being born or dying (106:2). 
This complex image touches reality only as it reflects the actual persons one 
has encountered in life. In a daring shift of his point of view, Ignatius then 
instructs the retreatant to give attention to the Three Persons looking at the 
same sights. At this point the vision of the retreatant is fused with that of 
the Trinity. By gazing at the Three Persons, one not only sees what they 
see — that was the first prelude — but now feels what they feel and reacts as 
they react. Throughout this meditation the retreatant tries to imagine the 
world of his or her personal experience through the eyes of God. 

Meditations on the Kingdom and the Incarnation, rooted as they are 
in city life, prepare the way for the subsequent contemplations of the Second 
Week, many of which explicitly deal with the ministry of Jesus amid crowds 
of people seeking his help in an urban setting. With the exception of the few 
exercises that stress the solitude of Jesus, such as the Temptations in the 
Desert (274) or the Agony in the Garden (290), each prayer begins with the 
same preparatory composition of place, that is, a mental reconstruction of 
the sites of the public and highly social ministry of Jesus that one is about to 
contemplate (91:2). 

The Two Standards (136-48) reiterates the social character of the 
Kingdom, the Incarnation, and the subsequent contemplations of the Second 
Week. It even constructs a polarity of two symbolic cities, Babylon and 
Jerusalem. Satan at first appears "in that great plain of Babylon" (140); but 
his attention is directed toward the "uncountable devils" whom he "dis- 
perses, some to one city and others to another, not missing any provinces, 
places, states, or individual persons (141). In perfect symmetry, Christ is 

22 * Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

imagined in "the great plain near Jerusalem" (144); but his attention, like 
Satan's, turns outward, where he sends his "apostles, disciples and the like 
. . . throughout the whole world, to spread his doctrine among people of 
every state and condition" (145). Inexorably, the retreatant enters this 
imagined combat between the forces of good and evil, where the battle 
threatens the greatest number of souls. The exercise gains immediacy as it is 
related to the persons and places of one's own ministry. 

The Contemplation to Attain Love (230-237) traditionally provides a 
summary and climax of all the preceding exercises. 23 In keeping with the 
sense of tranquility that should follow the completion of the retreat, Ignatius 
relies on a most uncharacteristic pattern of agrarian imagery. In the second 
point, Ignatius proposes for consideration God's activity in "the plants, 
giving them life; in the animals, giving them sensation" (235:1). In the third 
point, he returns to the same contemplation of nature: God "is working in 
the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest" (236:2). 

The imagery of the Contemplation takes us by surprise, but 
through a careful reading we can discern a logical compatibility with an 
urbanized reading of Ignatian spirituality. In the totality of the exercise, 
these pastoral images function as introductory reflections. They recall poetic 
commonplaces to set the theme of wonder and gratitude, but then Ignatius 
urges retreatants to go beyond them and into personal, specific experience of 
their own life and ministry. 

The text amply supports this reading. It introduces the Exercise by 
proposing a reflection on action: "Love ought to manifest itself more by 
deeds than by words" (230:2). Rendering this concept in concrete terms 
inevitably brings to mind acts of love one has received from others, acts 
witnessed, and even acts performed in the service of others in the ministry. 
Pushing forward in this drive toward specificity, Ignatius urges the retreatant 
to pray "for interior knowledge of all the great good I have received" (233). 
In each part of the meditation, despite the nature imagery, Ignatius invites 
the retreatant to look with gratitude and hope at the concrete details of his 
own life and ministry: "the gifts I have received — my creation, redemption, 
and other gifts particular to myself" (234:1); "how he dwells also in myself, 
giving me existence, life, sensation, and intelligence" (235:2); "how God 
labors and works for me" (236:1); "how all good things and gifts descend 
from above; for example, my limited power" (237:1). Each section of this 

Ganss notes that early commentators questioned placing the Contemplation 
invariably in the Fourth Week, and observes that this minority position was rejected 
rather quickly {Spiritual Exercises, endnote 117 [p. 183]). 

"City of the Living God" 4* 23 

meditation turns resolutely to the life of the retreatant as it functions in a 
busy world of human activities. 

The Suscipe also lends itself to a consideration of the specifics of 
one's ministry. The retreatant offers everything back to God, including 
memory, understanding and will. The prayer continues: "All is yours. 
Dispose of it according to your will" (234:5). Disposing of these gifts implies, 
surely, a disposition of the whole person for the service of others. In this 
context, the Suscipe implies not so much being lifted up and away from the 
concerns of humankind, but rather being lifted up and away from self-love, 
so that one can plunge without reservation into the ministry of Christ. 

The Contemplation ends abruptly with the fourth point, where 
Ignatius writes: "I will consider how all good things descend from above" 
(237:1). After someone has 
made the Exercises for a week 

or a month, ending on a posi- Doesn't it seem a bit paradoxical that 
tive note provides a fitting we Americans, tamers of the wilder- 

summary of all the previous ne$$ and holders of cities, still feel 

considerations of the work of ^ need tQ « retreat » f rom the 

God amid the w r onders of ere- ;• . » 3 

. _ . . metropolis in order to prayf 

ation. As I hope the previous 

pages have suggested, the ■-_■____ — i^— ^— ^^— 

"positive note" includes more 

than good feelings. The Exercises grew out of the busy life of the city and 

energize one to return to the busy life of ministry. Even in the country, 

Ignatian spirituality reveals itself as rooted in the world of God's struggling, 

hoping people. 

An American Perspective 

American Ruralism 

Even if the previous two sections of this essay have been persuasive 
in characterizing the Spiritual Exercises as an urban document and Ignatian 
spirituality as rooted in the busyness of city life, I doubt that many people 
will be persuaded to change a lifelong habit of going off to the country to 
pray. Despite the evidence from foundational documents, we continue to 
associate spirituality with the country, distraction and even temptation with 
the city. "Getting away" for retreat has become routine, even for older 
Jesuits who decades after the fact profess disdain for their years of formation 
in scholasticates built on the brink of the wilderness. 

24 ^ Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

No doubt, the reasons for this preference are personal, varied, and 
not particularly mysterious. Still, the pattern seems so pervasive and touches 
so many very different types of people that it raises the suspicion that some 
more generalized factor may be lurking beneath the surface. Why do so 
many of us feel this way? 

What follows is the proverbial "shot in the dark," but as one whose 
academic work often involves teasing out the reciprocal influence of Ameri- 
can film and American social mores, I find the cultural factor an intriguing 
possibility. Doesn't it seem a bit paradoxical that we Americans, who 
characterize ourselves as modern and progressive, tamers of the wilderness 
and builders of cities, still feel the need to "retreat" from the metropolis in 
order to pray? 

American history, as it comes down in popular myth, can be 
instructive. From the early decades of the seventeenth century, Puritan 
settlers came to North America for a new beginning amid the vast forests 
and rivers of a new world. Their mission included a religious dimension as 
they resolved to create a garden in the howling wilderness. The open spaces 
offered limitless possibilities for those with strength, courage, and self- 
reliance, then and now considered rural virtues. This freedom also implied 
rejecting the established cities of Europe, with their constricting religious 
and social structures. 

It's reasonably accurate to say that in rejecting the commercial 
centers of Europe and entering an unspoiled continent, the early settlers 
founded the United States on an agrarian ideal, and that over the past four 
centuries this initial ideal has been elevated to the status of foundational 
myth. Intellectuals and academics may question the impact of the myth and 
of the agrarian nature of Jeffersonian democracy, but these notions continue 
to shape the American imagination, as successful popular artists from 
Norman Rockwell to Steven Spielberg have demonstrated over the last 
century. For them and for us, wooden churches, white picket fences, and 
homemade apple pie provide the durable images of American innocence and 
integrity, even though the reality behind the symbols has long since van- 
ished. Some may wonder if it ever existed at all. 

The sense of separation from Europe was dramatically reaffirmed 
with our popular understanding of the Revolutionary War. A nation with- 
out a past, the new United States had a boundless future, and that future 
was to be found, not in the commercial centers of the East Coast, which 
began to be perceived as little better than Europe, but in the vast unmapped 
areas of the interior of the continent. 

Suspicion of the cities found expression from some surprising 
sources. Writing of Benjamin Franklin, literary historian Henry Nash Smith 

"City of the Living God" •$• 25 

notes a growing sourness in the Founding Father. A leading citizen of 
Philadelphia and one who served as American ambassador to Paris, Franklin 
was no country bumpkin, but Smith offers these comments: 

When [Franklin] surveyed the society of the new nation, the aging states- 
man consoled himself for the idleness and extravagance of the seaboard 
cities[, thankful] that the bulk of the population was composed of laborious 
and frugal inland farmers. Since the hundreds of millions of acres of land 
still covered by the great forest of the interior would every year attract 
more and more settlers, the luxury of a few merchants on the coast would 
not be the ruin of America. . . . Such ideas were widely current in late 
eighteenth-century America. 24 

Two of Franklin's sentiments are worth highlighting: first, the 
contrast between "idleness and extravagance of the seaboard cities" and the 
"laborious and frugal inland farmers," and second, the sense of nearly infinite 
possibilities in the "hundreds of millions of acres" of the interior. The first 
haunts us still whenever Congress tries to appropriate funds for social 
services, the second when it discusses environmental regulation. 

The agrarian face of the United States changed dramatically in the 
nineteenth century. "In 1810, 90 percent of Americans lived on farms; by 
1880, it dropped to 40 percent, and by 1980, 3 percent. "^ In the middle 
decades of the century, town life provided a temporary stopping place on 
the rush to the cities. Even though small towns had a relatively small 
economic impact on American life, their symbolic import as repositories of 
old-fashioned virtue remains enormous in the American imagination. 26 

Franklin's high expectation for the future of pristine, quintessential- 
ly moral values became, a century later, nostalgia for a lost opportunity. 
American historian Frederick Jackson Turner, interpreting data from the 
census of 1890, declared that the continental United States had closed its 
frontier areas. In his famous essay of 1893, "The Significance of the Frontier 
in American History," Turner cites the superintendent of the census of 1890: 

Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth 
(Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1978), 125. 

" Colin MacArthur, "Chinese Boxes and Russian Dolls: Tracking the Elusive 
Cinematic City," in The Cinematic City, ed. David B. Clarke (London: Routledge, 1997), 23. 

Canadian historian David J. Russo observes: "In the twentieth century most 
Americans came to live in these relatively few urban centers, which became the standard 
location for a population that had been dispersed in rural settings for the past three 
centuries. Neither before nor after did most Americans reside in towns: at first they 
moved out to the countryside, then they swarmed into the cities. Most of them have 
never been town dwellers" (American Towns: An Interpretive History [Chicago: Ivan R. 
Dee, 2001], 4). 

26 * Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

"Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement, but at 
present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of 
settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line." 27 Turner 
comments dramatically, "This brief official statement marks the closing of a 
great historic moment." 

The frontier was closed, but its marks remained. While the earliest 
inhabitants streamed west, they carried the Puritan standards of the East 
Coast with them, and they settled into a homogeneous agrarian society of 
English, Scotch-Irish, and Palatine Germans. 28 By today's standards, Turner 
seems terribly naive in his understanding of this development of an Ameri- 
can people. He thought these three groups "were fused into a mixed race, 
English in neither nationality nor characteristics." As it turned out, glaringly 
in the twentieth century, these three closely related northern-European 
groups blended easily into what those of Nativist leanings consider the true 
Anglo-Saxon American Protestant culture. 

As the inland settlements of these groups became firmly established 
and prosperous, the coastal cities experienced a constant influx of Irish, 
Mediterranean, Latin-American, and Asian immigrants, along with Africans 
recently freed from slavery or segregation in the post-Reconstruction period. 
Ironically, out on the frontier settlements and farming communities of the 
interior, the homogeneous religious and ethnic characteristics of colonial 
America, most notably of the Puritans, were preserved, while in the eastern 
cities they were under siege by new, different, and presumably threatening 
influences of the recent immigrants. The reality is far more complex than 
the clean distinctions of the American myth. In fact, pockets of ethnic 
minorities existed all across the frontier, but the self-image of a homoge- 
neous culture struck deep roots in the American psyche. John Ford, for 
example, set over thirty films in the American Southwest, with never a 
mention of Franciscan missionary churches, prosperous Mexican communi- 
ties, or settlements of Chinese railroad workers. 

Raised in a prosperous agricultural community in Wisconsin, Turner 
initially absorbed the frontier mythology of his home region, which was 
only a generation or two from the reality of settlement as he was growing 
up. In his private writings, as the American historian Richard Slotkin notes, 
Turner "expressed doubts about the capacity of Negroes and certain of the 
European 'races' Qews, 'Mediterraneans,' Slavs) to properly adapt to Ameri- 

Fredenck Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: 
Dover, 1996), 1. 

28 Ibid., 22. 

"City of the Living God" <■ 27 

can life." 29 Slotkin continues describing Turner's opinion: "The older immi- 
grants had brought to the country as a whole, and to the West in particular, 
a moral and political idealism that reinforced and enriched native democratic 

To keep a proper balance, Slotkin points out that as Turner's 
thought matured during his years at Harvard, he insisted that the "new 
immigrants . . . were just as idealistic." In other words, the old stock out 
there on the farms embodied the ideal, and newcomers piling into the cities 
could be considered comparable to them in idealism. 

As the frontier moved westward, the American imagination began 
to regard the cities, especially on the East Coast, simply as another version 
of Europe, where soft entrepreneurs in the offices of banks and railroads 
profited from the toil of a righteous, agrarian nation, and where new 
immigrants from a bewildering variety of regions and nations exploited the 
wealth of their adopted homeland. In the American mythology, these cities 
represented everything that was not truly American. With their babel of 
tongues and heterodoxies of belief, the cities threatened to undermine the 
foundations of the new Jerusalem founded by the first settlers. Without 
adverting to the fact, Americans thought of "God's country" and "the devil's 

The Frontier Reborn 

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, just as the actuality of 
the frontier was passing into history, the movies appeared and burned the 
myth of the frontier forever into the American imagination. Clever show- 
men began selling tickets for demonstrations of the new apparatus as early as 
1895, but the first genuine blockbuster was "The Great Train Robbery" 
(Edwin S. Porter, 1903). In this fourteen-minute epic, helpless Easterners, so 
identified by their costumes, riding on a train, a turn-of-the-century symbol 
of modernity, are robbed at gunpoint. Modern technology fails when the 
robbers take over the telegraph office. The townspeople interrupt their 
Virginia reel, a folk expression of community solidarity, and form a posse. 
After a chase through the woods, the townsmen trap the outlaws and shoot 
them to death. The message is clear: Good, simple, God-fearing citizens 
triumph over evil without the intervention of new-fangled Eastern-spawned 

Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth- 
Centuij America (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma, 1998), 55. 

28 ■*■ Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

For the next sixty years, westerns rose to a position of prominence 
in the popular culture. Games of Cowboys and Indians reached into the 
most urban of playgrounds, and Western-style jeans became the obligatory 
uniform of Americans, men and women alike. 

Vast indeed is the literature explaining the dominance of the 
western in the popular imagination and its sudden collapse during the period 
of the Vietnam War/" A few observations about this American fascination 
with the frontier myth are pertinent to our reflection on the rural bias of 
our spirituality. 

Simplistic Morality: In the classic westerns, audiences had little doubt 
about good and evil. The cliche about white hats and black hats holds a 
great deal of truth in the movies. The heroes seldom had to face moral con- 
flicts, and the code of conduct 
was governed by the simple 
adage "A man's gotta do what 

a man's gotta do." The dis- In the classic westerns, audiences had 
cernment was brief and the little doubt about good and evil. The 

conclusions definite. No one discernment was brief and the 

stopped to question the values conclusions definite. 

supporting his efforts to drive 

the Indians back to the reser- ^ ^ ^^~^^~ 

vation, break up rangeland for 

development, or open the territory for the railroads. On the frontier we 

knew what was good, just, and the manifest destiny of a nation specially 

ordained by God. The western provides a very comfortable, sure-footed 


Hie Lone Hero: Westerns routinely begin with the image of the 
solitary figure riding across the vast wilderness toward a settlement and end 
with his riding off into the sunset, westward to a new frontier. In the desert, 
a pristine region untouched by the intervention of human wiles and institu- 
tions, he is free, literally. The town forces him to confront corruption and, 
like it or not, become part of it. Out in the wilderness, he has the serenity 
of solitude, just like a retreatant. 

Tlie Community. The hero serves the community, but he is not part 
of it. He drives off the Indians, the outlaws, or the claim jumpers because it 
is the right thing to do; but in the end, after he solves the community's 
problems, he leaves it to its own devices. The settlers build their commu- 

Among the more comprehensive surveys of the popularity and decline of 
western films is Jon Tuska, The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western 
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1985). 

'City of the Living God" + 29 

nity, which may in time become a town or city, but the hero hovers safely 
above their struggles. He helps, but he knows that he can always move on 
to another assignment, to another community. 

The myth of rugged individualism, the image of man against the 
open sky, compassionate but free from the complexities and ambiguities of 
his environment, presents an attractive if imaginary life situation, if only for 
the few days of a retreat. Appropriating these frontier myths, so familiar 
through the movies, provides a sense of comfortable and holy space. Unfor- 
tunately, the perceived desirability of solitary heroism, out there in the 
frontier apart from the concourse of men and women, cuts against the 
apostolic grain for one making the Exercises. In the end, it proves counter- 
productive once one returns to the real world. 

Meanwhile, Back in the East . . . 

While western heroes wandered through mountains and plains 
establishing justice and building a nation — despite inconveniencing a few 
Native Americans — the cities gave rise to the gangster, who prowled through 
dark alleys and murky waterfronts undoing the law and order that the 
pioneers had so carefully established. Generally, gangsters have some alien 
roots; they are Irish, Italian, or Jewish; and their sinister presence is under- 
lined by shadowy, black settings, punctuated by oblique shafts of light 
slashing across wet asphalt streets. The dark images of the movies left little 
doubt that the city spawned a foggy morality, where lines between good and 
evil are scarcely discernible. These gloomy, shadowy images gave rise to the 
term "film noir," or dark film. 

In most of these movies, the criminal, played by Jimmy Cagney, 
George Raft, John Garfield, Humphrey Bogart, or Edward G. Robinson, was 
the most interesting and often the most sympathetic figure in the film. In 
this city, audiences lost their moral bearings and wavered between wanting 
to see justice prevail and wanting the antihero to succeed in his audacious 
criminal schemes. In this kind of movie-city, clear standards of morality do 
not exist; danger lurks everywhere. The city and crime are inextricably 
associated. In his seminal essay, "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," cultural 
historian Robert Warsaw noted, "The gangster is a man of the city, with the 
city's language and knowledge, with its queer and dishonest skills and its 

30 •*• Richard A. Blake, S.J. 

terrible daring." 31 A good gangster coerces our admiration, even if we reject 
his morality. 

Women characters also reflected the moral polarities of country and 
city. The country woman is blonde, dresses in calico, bakes pies, and 
identifies herself in terms of the traditional values of marriage and family. By 
contrast, the city woman is dark, possibly foreign-looking, wears silk, 
smokes, drinks, and uses her charms to pursue and often destroy men. 
Critics have coined the term "femme noire" to describe such dangerous 
women. No fragile victims are the likes of Theda Bara, Joan Crawford, Bette 
Davis, Susan Hayward, or Barbara Stanwyck. The country girl who comes 
to the city risks not only her virtue but her safety. 

The Middle Ground 

American popular culture, as seen through its films, rushes toward 
extremes: the country as Utopia and the city as dystopia. This tendency puts 
us in conflict with the dynamics of the Contemplation to Attain Love, 
through which the individual strives to discover God's action in all things, 
starting with nature and ending with the concrete circumstances, events, and 
people of one's own life. 

Film theorists and historians have been at work trying to under- 
mine the simplistic bipolar conception of environments as rural or urban, 
pristine or corrupt, Utopian or dystopian. They find more congenial the 
notion of "heterotopia," as proposed by Michel Foucault and others. 32 They 
challenge the common understanding of the city in films as an unqualified 
moral wasteland. Nor do they accept the notion of the country as a pre- 
industialized environment, a restored Eden. Rereading many classic films 
with a consciousness of ambiguity of place opens the way to a more com- 
plex and realistic appreciation of settings. Often enough, small-town and 
rural settings are hothouses of bigotry and pettiness that suffocate their 
inhabitants. The cities likewise provide the freedom and vitality that allow 
their citizens to become more, not less, human. Of themselves, locations are 
neither totally good nor bad, but a combination of both. 

Robert Warshow, The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and 

Other Aspects of Popular Culture (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1964), 84. This essay was 

originally published in the Partisan Review in 1948, and it remains pertinent to any 
discussion of the gangster film today. 

"David B. Clarke, "Introduction: Previewing the Cinematic City," in id., 
Cinematic City, 6. 

"City of the Living God" * 31 

In her 1961 classic critique of urban planning, Jane Jacobs provides 
her own perspective on the question of the usual bipolar thinking about 
cities vs. the country. Cities and nature, she maintains, are one. The city is 
the natural habitat of the human species. 33 With all its mixture of appealing 
and maddening experiences, it is the place where the human person can 
develop and grow. And even more, she argues, it is the environment that 
forces one to look outward toward a wider world. 

It may be romantic to search for the salves of society's ills in slow- 
moving rustic surroundings or among innocent, unspoiled provincials, if 
such exist, but it is a waste of time. Does anyone suppose that, in real life, 
answers to any of the great questions that worry us today are going to 
come out of homogeneous settlements? . . . But lively, diverse, intense cities 
contain the seeds of their own regeneration with energy enough to carry 
over for problems and needs outside themselves. 34 

Jacobs's appreciation of the cities' role in generating energy to 
grapple with the world's problems strikes me as quite similar to Ignatius's 
own preference for busy, diverse settings for his meditations and for urban 
environments in which to give them. Such locales, created in the imagina- 
tion during prayer or savored by walking down a busy street, help one to 
imagine a wider, more creative context for one's apostolic life. If one can 
make the climactic Contemplation to Attain Love by looking at a tree or 
listening to the surf, then perhaps one could also find God in all things by 
walking attentively amid crowds of God's human creation. If this is distrac- 
tion, then ministry is distraction. If it is prayer, then ministry is prayer. 

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage, 
1992), 443. 

34 Ibid., 448. 


A Letter from Very Reverend Gabriel Gruber, Then Resident in 

Russia, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, to Most Reverend 

John Carroll, Jesuit before the Suppression and now Bishop of 

Baltimore, First Diocese in the United States 

hen Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773, Catherine the Great refused 
to allow the letter of suppression to be promulgated in her domains, a canonical require- 
ment for it to take effect. With the tacit and then verbal approval of Pope Pius VI, the 
Jesuits there would very gradually open a novitiate and elect five superiors through the 
years up to 1814. One year before Gabriel Gruber was elected in 1802, Pius VII on March 
7, 1801, issued the letter Catholicse Fidei, publicly sanctioning the existence of the Society 
of Jesus in Russia. He then allowed former Jesuits and new aspirants anywhere in the 
world to affiliate with the Society in Russia even if they were not living there. Such was 
the background of the following letter. Because of the revolutionary upheavals in Europe 
and Napoleon's imprisonment of Pope Pius, it was not until 1814 that the Pope could 
bring about the worldwide restoration. 

On the Restoration of the Society 

Most Illustrious and Reverend Sir, 

Your Lordship's two letters, one in 
full bearing date of March the 10th and 
May 25th of last year, and a shorter one 
of September the 21st reached me to- 
gether. Prior to these I received nothing 
from you. Word cannot express my joy, 
on reading these two letters. I thank 
God, the Author and Distributor of all 
heavenly gifts, from the bottom of my 
heart, for having fostered and preserved 
in so many of our Society — not- 
withstanding the great distance that sepa- 
rates them one from another— that holy 
spirit which in our young days we 
caught from the Institute of our Holy 
Father Ignatius. Blessed be God, for His 
Mercy endureth forever! After God, my 
thanks are due to your Lordship, who 
has taken so exceedingly kind an interest 
in Ours as to inform me of their holy 

desire. To satisfy you and them to the 
utmost, I shall first with all due sincerity 
unfold the state of our affairs here. 

Our Society of Jesus, the same that 
was founded by St. Ignatius, approved 
first by Paul EI, and then in turn by the 
Holy Pontiffs, his successors, has been 
most marvelously preserved in the Rus- 
sian Empire. Three years since, it also 
received Canonical Confirmation in the 
Empire of Russia from our Holy Father, 
Pius VII. Doubtless your Lordship is 
aware that we are, in consequence, living 
here under the same primitive Laws and 
Constitutions of St. Ignatius, without 
the slightest change or innovation. 

We have held four General Congre- 
gations, in the last of which, on the 10th 
of October, 1802, the task of governing 
the Society was laid on my weak shoul- 




You ask me, Illustrious Sir, if we 
have an Apostolic Brief extending the 
Confirmation of the Society outside of 
the borders of Russia. I answer that ow- 
ing to the troubles in Europe and the 
uneasiness of the Catholic Courts, or 
rather the excitement of the enemies of 
the Church, which has not yet subsided, 
the Holy Father hesitates to make pub- 
He his good-will towards us through a 
Brief, lest our enemies should be further 
aroused against us. Yet he has given, 
even for those outside of Russia, a viva 
voce permission of which both His Emi- 
nence, Cardinal Consalvi, Secretary of 
State, and Vincent Georgi, Theologus 
poenitentiarius, formerly one of Ours, 
have written me; as also has the Procura- 
tor General of the Society of Jesus, Fa- 
ther Cajetano Angiolini, whom I sent 
last year to Rome, and who has frequent 
access to the Holy Father. 

This viva voce concession empowers 
us to affiliate members to the Society in 
any place whatsoever, provided it be 
done quietly and without ostentation. In 
proof of this, witness an incident occa- 
sioned through the instrumentality of 
our Father Aloysius Poirot, Missionary 
Apostolic to Pekin. Last year he sent to 
the Holy Father, in the shape of a pam- 
phlet, a petition asking of him the neces- 
sary faculty for his reunion with the 
Society in Russia. The officials of the 
Roman Court (Romani Curiales) averred 
that it could not be well done. Our Fa- 
ther Procurator laid the matter before 
the Holy Father, who answered that 
there was no obstacle whatsoever in the 
way; nay more, he added that there was 
no need of the petition or of insisting 
thereon; that any one at all, no matter 
how far from Russia he dwelt, was free 
to become affiliated to the Society, 

through the General of the same; that 
this all belonged to each one's con- 
science and so could give offense to no 
one. This alone, he continued, was for- 
bidden, to wit, for Ours outside of Rus- 
sia to unite together in a body, as it is 
said, and establish a community with a 
special kind of dress peculiar to 

It is clear from these very words of 
the Holy Father, as well as from the 
letters to the same effect sent me by His 
Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of 
State, that to avoid giving offense to the 
royal courts we must not build Colleges 
or Residences, and we must not wear a 
peculiar habit; for all this, being exte- 
rior, would attract attention. Nothing, 
however, is forbidden us that belongs to 
the interior, and which we do cautiously 
and with prudence A. M. D. G. To this 
latter category belongs the reception of 
new members. That this also is to the 
mind and intent of the Holy Father, is 
clear from another circumstance. On 
hearing that in England we had received 
not only those who were formerly of 
Ours, but outside students also, for 
which in the case of the latter we had 
earnestly sought permission, he raised 
his eyes to heaven and in most tender 
accents returned thanks to God. 

In view of all this I accept and re- 
ceive into the Society all that solicit to 
be united with us, whether or not, they 
were of the old Society. This is the plan 
I follow. The old Profession of the Four 
Vows according to the following brief 
formula: I, N.N., before Almighty God 
and His most Blessed Virgin Mother, 
ratify the Profession made by me in the 
year . . . the month of . . . v.g. at Liege. 
Done v.g. at Baltimore, the . . . day of 




the month of ... in the year. . . . Those 
who have not yet made their Profession, 
after having in a like manner spent eight 
days in retreat, renew their Simple Vows 
for the time being, as they are to take 
their grade at the end of the year. Before 
this, however, they must spend a month 
in Spiritual Exercises. 

As for those who were not in the 
old Society, they must pass through 
something of a noviceship, spending 
four weeks in the Spiritual Exercises, 
and occupying themselves in reading the 
Institute and Rules, copies of which I 
shall take care to have forwarded thither 
in due time, and in the practice of hu- 
mility and other solid virtues. 

Wherefore I most humbly beg your 
Lordship, out of love for our best of 
mothers, to appoint in those parts one 
of the old Fathers, a man filled with the 
Holy Ghost and the spirit of St. Igna- 
tius, to examine these new postulants, to 
instruct them, to watch over them and 
form them. He shall, if expedient, com- 
municate with the Father Provincial of 
England, Father Stone, or with Father 
Strickland, now residing in London. In 
this new start we must, as far as possi- 
ble, treat our novices as was done in the 
early days of the old Society, where the 
highest perfection was not exacted of 
them in everything, but only that they 
should make up in fervor of spirit for 
whatever should be wanting in them. I 
pray your Lordship also to have a cata- 
logue made of all those who shall be re- 
admitted, or newly received; in which 
special note shall be made of the time of 
admission of the newcomers, of the time 
of ratification of their vows by the old 
Professed, and of the learning, the The- 
ology, the prudence and virtue of those 

who have merely renewed the Simple 
Vows of Scholastics; that I may know to 
what grade in the Society these should 
be promoted after a year's time. 

My trust in God is firm that we 
shall not have long to await the public 
redemption of Israel. When that time 
comes, and things are quieted in Europe, 
some one shall be sent to America, if 
not hence, assuredly from England, to 
look into matters and put them in due 
order and arrangement. For the present I 
entrust everything to the good-will, zeal, 
and protection of your Lordship and 
your Coadjutor, His Lordship of Gor- 
tyna [Leonard Neale, after whom Neale 
House in Washington is presently 
named; he was coadjutor to John Car- 
roll, bishop of Baltimore]. If Ours judge 
that they can with ease have recourse to 
Father Stone, the Provincial of England, 
for all necessary government, let them 
do so. If Fr. Stone is too far off, let 
them notify me and propose to me some 
one of Ours in America whom I may 
appoint Provincial. Meantime I desire 
your Lordship of Baltimore to appoint 
some one to act in those parts as Supe- 
rior over the entire Society, that is again 
coming into existence, with all the nec- 
essary faculties which I by such appoint- 
ment concede to him for the present. 
For the rest, as I began this letter by 
giving thanks to God, so I close it in 
adoration of Him, the Father of Our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and I beseech Him 
that, as He has deigned to further with 
His heavenly favor this beginning and 
recall to life there in secret, the Society 
of His Son, the fruitful mother of so 
many Apostolic men, so He will hence- 
forth propagate it openly with the sup- 
port and assistance of your Lordship, to 
whom, as well as to His Lordship of 

Sources * 35 

Gortyna, with the deepest gratitude and Your very illustrious and Most Rev- 

profound submission, I recommend my- erend Lordship's most humble and obe- 
self and all of Ours. dient servant in Christ, 

Gabriel Gruber 

General of the Society of Jesus 

St. Petersburg, March 12, 1804 


Past Issues: Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 

(For prices, see inside back cover.) 

1/1 Sheets, Profile of the Contemporary Jesuit (Sept. 1969) 

1/2 Ganss, Authentic Spiritual Exercises: History and Terminology (Nov. 1969) 

2/1 Burke, Institution and Person (Feb. 1970) 

2/2 Futrell, Ignatian Discernment (Apr. 1970) 

2/3 Lonergan, Response of the ]esmt as Priest and Apostle (Sept. 1970) 

3/1 Wright, Grace of Our Founder and the Grace of Our Vocation (Feb. 1971) 

3/2 O'Flaherty, Some Reflections on Jesuit Commitment (Apr. 1971) 

3/4 Toner, A Method for Communal Discernment of God's Will (Sept. 1971) 

3/5 Sheets, Toward a Theology of the Religious Life (Nov. 1971) 

4/2 Two Discussions: I. Spiritual Direction, II. Leadership and Authority (Mar. 1972) 

4/3 Orsy, Some Questions about the Purpose and Scope of the General Congregation (June 1972) 

4/4 Ganss, Wright, O'Malley, O'Donovan, Dulles, On Continuity and Change: A Symposium 
(Oct. 1972) 

5/1-2 O'Flaherty, Renewal: Call and Response (Jan.-Mar. 1973) 

5/3 Arrupe, McNaspy, Tl)e Place of Art in Jesuit Life (Apr. 1973) 

5/4 Haughey, The Pentecostal Tlnng and Jesuits (June 1973) 

5/5 Orsy, Toward a Theological Evaluation of Communal Discernment (Oct. 1973) 

6/3 Knight, Joy and Judgment in Religious Obedience (Apr. 1974) 

7/1 Wright, Ganss, Orsy, On Thinking with the Church Today (Jan. 1975) 

7/2 Ganss, Christian Life Communities from the Sodalities (Mar. 1975) 

7/3 Connolly, Contemporary Spiritual Direction: Scope and Principles (June 1975) 

7/5 Buckley, The Confirmation oj a Promise; Padberg, Continuity and Change in General 

Congregation XXXI I (Nov. 1975) 

8/1 O'Neill, Acatamiento: Ignatian Reverence (Jan. 1976) 

8/2-3 De la Costa, Sheridan, and others. On Becoming Poor: A Symposium on Evangelical Poverty 
(Mar-May 1976) 

8/4 Fancy, Jesuit Community: Community of Prayer (Oct. 1976) 

9/1-2 Becker, Changes in U.S. Jesuit Membership, 1958-75; Others, Reactions and Explanations 
(Jan.-Mar. 1977) 

9/4 Connolly, Land, Jesuit Spiritualities and the Struggle for Social Justice (Sept. 1977). 

9/5 Gill, A Jesuit's Account of Conscience (Nov. 1977) 

10/1 Kammer, "Burn-Out"— Dilemma for the Jesuit Social Activist (Jan. 1978) 

10/4 Harvanek, Status of Obedience in the Society of Jesus; Others, Reactions to Connolly-Land 

(Sept. 1978) 

11/1 Clancy, Feeling Bad about Feeling Good (Jan. 1979) 

11/2 Maruca, Our Personal Witness as Power to Evangelize Culture (Mar. 1979) 

11/3 Klein, American Jesuits and the Liturgy (May 1979) 

11/5 Conwell, 71?e Kamikaze Factor: Choosing Jesuit Ministries (Nov. 1979) 

12/2 Henriot, Appleyard, Klein, Living Together in Mission: A Symposium on Small Apostolic 

Communities (Mar. 1980) 

12/3 Conwell, Living and Dying in the Society of Jesus (May 1980) 

12/4-5 Schineller, Newer Approaches to Christology and Tlmr Use in the Spiritual Exercises (Sept.-Nov, 

13/1 Peter, Alcoholism in Jesuit Life (Jan. 1981) 

13/3 Ganss, Towards Understanding the Jesuit Brothers' Vocation (May 1981) 

13/4 Reites, St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jews (Sept. 1981) 

14/1 O'Malley, TJ?e Jesuits, St. Ignatius, and the Counter Reformation (Jan. 1982) 

14/2 Dulles, St. Ignatius unci Jesuit Theological Tradition (Mar. 1982) 

14/4 Gray, An Experience in Ignatian Government (Sept. 1982) 

14/5 Ivern, The Future of Faith unci Justice: Review oj Decree Four (Nov. 1982) 

15/1 O'Malley, The Fourth Vow in Its Ignatiun Context (Jan. 1983) 

15/2 Sullivan and Faricy, On Making the Spiritual Exercises Jor Renewal oj Jesuit Charisms (Mar. 


15/3-4 Padberg, The Society True to Itself: A Brief History of the 32nd General Congregation of the 

Society of Jesus (May-Sept. 1983) 

15/5-16/1 Tetlow, Jesuits' Mission in Higher Education (Nov. 1983-Jan. 1984) 

16/2 O'Malley, To Travel to Any Part of the World: Jeronimo Nodal and the Jesuit Vocation (Mar. 


16/3 O'Hanlon, Integration of Christian Practices: A Western Christian Looks East (May 1984) 

16/4 Carlson, "A Faith Lived Out of Doors": Ongoing Formation (Sept. 1984) 

16/5 Kinerk, Eliciting Great Desires: Their Place in the Spirituality of the Society of Jesus (Nov. 1984) 

17/1 Spohn, St. Paul on Apostolic Celibacy and the Body of Christ (Jan. 1985) 

17/2 Daley, "In Ten Thousand Places": Christian Universality and the Jesuit Mission (Mar. 1985) 

17/3 Tetlow, Dialogue on the Sexual Maturing of Celibates (May 1985) 

17/4 Spohn, Coleman, Clarke, Henriot, Jesuits and Peacemaking (Sept. 1985) 

17/5 Kinerk, When Jesuits Pray: A Perspective on the Prayer of Apostolic Persons (Nov. 1985) 

18/1 Gelpi, The Converting Jesuit (Jan. 1986). 

18/2 Beirne, Compass and Catalyst: The Ministry of Administration. (Mar. 1986) 

18/3 McCormick, Bishops as Teachers and Jesuits as Listeners (May 1986) 

18/5 Tetlow, 77;e Transformation of Jesuit Poverty (Nov. 1986). 

19/1 Staudenmaier, United States Technology and Adult Commitment (Jan. 1987) 

19/2 Appleyard, Languages We Use: Talking about Religious Experience (Mar. 1987) 

19/5 Endean, Who Do You Say Ignatius Is? Jesuit Fundamentalism and Beyond (Nov. 1987) 

20/1 Brackley, Downward Mobility: Social Implications of St. Ignatius's Two Standards (Jan. 1988) 

20/2 Padberg, How We Live Where We Live (Mar. 1988) 

20/3 Hayes, Padberg, Staudenmaier, Symbols, Devotions, and Jesuits (May 1988) 

20/4 McGovern, Jesuit Education and Jesuit Spirituality (Sept. 1988) 

20/5 Barry, Jesuit Formation Today: An Invitation to Dialogue and Involvement (Nov. 1988) 

21/1 Wilson, Where Do We Belong? United States Jesuits and Their Memberships (Jan. 1989) 

21/2 Demoustier, Calvez, et al., The Disturbing Subject: The Option Jor the Poor (Mar. 1989) 

21/3 Soukup, Jesuit Response to the Communication Revolution (May 1989) 

22/1 Carroll, The Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (Jan. 1990) 

22/2 Bracken, Jesuit Spirituality from a Process Prospective (March 1990) 

22/3 Shepherd, Fire for a Weekend: An Experience of the Exercises (May 1990) 

22/4 O'Sullivan, Trust Your Feelings, but Use Your Head (Sept. 1990) 

22/5 Coleman,/! Company of Critics: Jesuits and the Intellectual Life (Nov. 1990) 

23/1 Houdek, The Road Too Often Traveled (Jan. 1991) 

23/2 DiGiacomo, Ministering to the Young (March 1991) 

23/3 Begheyn and Bogart, A Bibliography on St. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises (May 1991) 

23/4 Shelton, Reflections on the Mental Health of Jesuits (Sept. 1991) 

23/5 Toolan, "Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire" (Nov. 1991) 

24/1 Houdek, Jesuit Prayer and Jesuit Ministry: Context and Possibilities (Jan. 1992) 

24/2 Smolich, Testing the Water: Jesuits Accompanying the Poor (March 1992) 

24/3 Hassel, Jesus Christ Changing Yesterday, Today, and Forever (May 1992) 

24/4 Shelton, Toward Healthy Jesuit Community Living (Sept. 1992) 

24/5 Cook, Jesus' Parables and the Faith That Does Justice (Nov. 1992) 

25/2 Donahue, What Does the Lord Require? (March 1993)— ONCE AGAIN AVAILABLE 

25/3 Padberg, Ignatius, the Popes, and Realistic Reverence (May 1993) 

25/4 Stahel, Toward General Congregation 34 (Sept. 1993) 

25/5 Baldovin, Christian Liturgy: An Annotated Bibliograplry (Nov. 1993) 

26/1 Tetlow, Tlye Most Postmodern Prayer (Jan. 1994) 

26/2 Murphy, 77;e Many Ways of Justice (March 1994) 

26/3 Staudenmaier, To Fall in Love with the World (May 1994) 

26/4 Foley, Stepping into the River (Sept. 1994) 

26/5 Landy, Myths That Shape Us (Nov. 1994) 

27/1 Daley, "To Be More like Christ" (Jan. 1995) 

27/2 Schmidt, Portraits and Landscapes (March 1995) 

27/3 Stockhausen, Vd Love to, but I Don't Have the Time (May 1995) 

27/4 Anderson, Jesuits in Jail, Ignatius to the Present (Sept. 1995) 

27/5 Shelton, Friendship in Jesuit Life (Nov. 1995) 

28/1 Begheyn, Bibliograplry on the History of the Jesuits (Jan. 1996) 

28/2 Veale, Saint Ignatius Speaks about "Ignatian Prayer" (March 1996) 

28/3 Clooney, In Ten Tliousand Places, in Every Blade of Grass (May 1996) 

28/4 Starkloff, "As Different As Night and Day" (Sept. 1996) 

28/5 Beckett, Listening to Our History (Nov. 1996) 

29/1 Hamm, Preaching Biblical Justice (Jan. 1997) 

29/2 Padberg, TJjc Three Forgotten Founders (March 1997) 

29/3 Byrne, Jesuits and Parish Ministry (May 1997) 

29/4 Keenan, Are Informationes Ethical? (Sept. 1997) 

29/5 Ferhta, The Road to Bethlehem-Is It Level or Winding? (Nov. 1997) 

30/1 Shore, Tl)e Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony and Its Influence on the Spiritual Exercises of 

Ignatius of Loyola (Jan. 1998) 

30/2 Starkloff, "I'm No Theologian, but . . . (or So . . . )?" (March 1998) 

30/3 Torrens, Ue Word That Clamors (May 1998) 

30/4 Petrik, "Being Sent" (Sept. 1998) 

30/5 Jackson, "One and the Same Vocation" (Nov. 1998) 

31/1 Clifford, Scripture and the Exercises (Jan. 1999) 

31/2 Toohig, Pfrysics Research, a Search for God (March 1999) 

31/3 Fagin, Fidelity in the Church— Tloen and Now (May 1999) 

31/4 Schineller, Pilgrim Journey of Ignatius (Sept. 1999) 

31/5 Fullam, Juana, S.J.: Status of Women in the Society (Nov. 1999) 

32/1 Langan, The Good of Obedience in a Culture of Autonomy (Jan. 2000) 

32/2 Blake, Listen with Your Eyes (March 2000) 

32/3 Shelton, When a Jesuit Counsels Others (May 2000) 

32/4 Barry, Past, Present, and Future (Sept. 2000) 

32/5 Starkloff, Pilgrimage Re-envisioned (Nov. 2000) 

33/1 Kolvenbach et al., Faith, Justice, and American Jesuit Higher Education (Jan. 2001) 

33/2 Keenan, Unexpected Consequences: Parsons's Christian Directory (March 2001) 

33/3 Arrupe, Trinitarian Inspiration of the Ignatian Charism (May 2001) 

33/4 Veale, Saint Ignatius Asks, "Are You Sure You Know Who I Am?" (Sept. 2001) 

33/5 Barry and Keenan, How Multicultural Are We? (Nov. 2001) 

34/1 Blake, "City of the Living God" (Jan. 2002) 



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